WASHINGTON – Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military documents about the Iraq War were made public by the WikiLeaks website Friday in one of the largest leaks of classified material in American history.
The most explosive documents are reports suggesting that U.S. forces knew about but failed to stop numerous cases of prisoner abuse by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to accounts by several news organizations that were given early access to the files by WikiLeaks.
The documents, known in the U.S. military as “significant activities” reports, describe what U.S. troops in Iraq encountered on a daily basis from 2003 to this year.
The files outline U.S. concerns that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were providing training and giving weapons to Shiite militias in a proxy war aimed at killing U.S. troops and Iraq’s Sunnis.
WikiLeaks, a secretive activist organization that claims to campaign against official secrecy, called the disclosure of the 391,832 documents “the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.”
The WikiLeaks statement said that its analysis of the reports determined that 109,032 people died in Iraq over the seven years, including 66,081 civilians, 23,984 insurgents, 15,196 Iraqi army and police, and 3,771 U.S. and allied personnel.
Those numbers could not be verified, but that accounting of civilian casualties is substantially higher than a tally of the death toll released earlier this month by the Pentagon, which said that 76,939 Iraqi civilian and security force members had died in the conflict.
Amnesty International, a human rights group, said it appeared the U.S. forces may have broken international law by turning prisoners over to Iraqi security forces when they knew the prisoners were likely to be tortured.
“We have not yet had an opportunity to study the leaked files in detail, but they add to our concern that the U.S. authorities committed a serious breach of international law,” said Malcolm Smart, an Amnesty International director.